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    William Leggett receives prestigious lifetime achievement award

    Dr. William Leggett.

    William Leggett, professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and Queen's 17th principal, has received the H. Ahlstrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society for his contributions to the fields of larval fish ecology.

    The American Fisheries Society is the biggest association of professional aquatic ecologists in the world, with over 9,000 members worldwide.

    "œIt feels good to be singled out by such large group of people who I respect so highly," says Dr. Leggett. "œI didn'™t expect to receive this award so it'™s a big honour and thrill to get it."

    Dr. Leggett'™s research focuses on the dynamics of fish populations and his work as a biologist and a leader in education has been recognized nationally and internationally. A membership in the Order of Canada, a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, and the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Education are just some of the awards he has received for outstanding contributions to graduate education and marine science.

    The Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society recognized Dr. Leggett'™s "œexceptional contributions to the understanding of early life history of fishes that has inspired the careers of a number of fisheries scientists worldwide and has led to major progress in fish ecology and studies of recruitment dynamics."

    The award was recently presented in Quebec City at the 38th annual Larval Fish Conference held in conjunction with the 144th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society.


    Dalitso Ruwe joins global research organization

    Dalitso Ruwe

    Dalitso Ruwe, assistant professor of Black Political Thought in the Department of Philosophy and the Black Studies Program, has been named a Azrieli Global Scholar by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), a Canadian-based global research organization.

    The Azrieli Scholars are provided two years of unrestricted research funding and access to a community of interdisciplinary global collaborators to advance their work on pressing questions facing science and humanity. A total of 16 scholars were announced, including Élise Devoie, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, marking the second time Queen’s researchers have received the honour from CIFAR.

    “It’s an incredible honor to be named a Global Scholar,” Dr. Ruwe says. “The opportunity to join a program that values interdisciplinary research while asking new questions about how the sciences and humanities can help us make sense of contemporary societal challenges is exciting. Personally, I'm excited to be learning from emerging and renowned scholars who have made an active commitment to public facing problems.”

    The Azrieli Global Scholar community includes more than 400 researchers from 161 institutions in 18 countries and its fellows, chairs, scholars, and advisors are among the most highly cited researchers in the world.

    Currently Dr. Ruwe is conducting research on how Eurocentric scientific discourses, from the 17th through 21st century, have not only dehumanized Black men but justified their deaths as well. He is exploring negative caricatures of Black masculinity that emerge in scientific narratives and addressing how these depictions and stereotypes have normalized anti-black violence.

    He is also working on a manuscript titled Horrors of the Flesh: Black Misandric Violence and the Dehumanizing Logics of Western Sciences.

    “I see this award as an opportunity to strengthen more pathways and connections to amplify research in Africana philosophy, Critical Race Theory and Black Male Studies in the field of philosophy in Canada.”

    Learn more about Dr. Ruwe and Dr. Devoie and the award on the CIFAR website.

    This article was first published by the Faculty of Arts and Science.

    Queen’s researchers display exceptionality in storytelling

    Research brought to life through powerful storytelling, that’s the goal of the Storytellers Challenge.

    Queen’s PhD students Hannah Hunter (Geography and Planning) and Madison Robertson (Health Quality) met this challenge, being selected among the five winners from among approximately 200 submissions.

    The event, hosted annually by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), has students from across Canada tell the fascinating story of their research in either three minutes or up to 300 words. The students make their submissions in a variety of abstract formats, such as audio, video, text, or infographics to demonstrate the unique ability of their work to evoke change. The competition provides students with the opportunity to display the impact of social sciences and humanities, as well as increase research accessibility and understanding throughout Canada. Winners are selected based on their creativity, clarity, and ability to captivate the audience with their submission.

    Each of the 25 finalists were awarded $3,000. An additional $1,000 was also awarded to each of the five winners.

    Queen’s Winners:

    Hannah Hunter‘s submission, Listening to Birds at the End of the World, explores the rich collections of historical wildlife sound recordings and what they can tell us about human-nature relationships of the past, present, and future. Alongside traditional research methods, Hunter is creating a podcast series called Last Call for Lost Birds where she will bring extinct birds back to life using audio storytelling.

    Madison Robertson‘s work Till Death Do Us Part: Spousal Separation in Long-Term Care investigates the effects of separation on spouses who cannot live together in long-term care facilities due to different care requirements and increased demand within the  system. Using a participatory action research method, she will explore feelings of loneliness and depression in elderly patients who become isolated from their significant other while in long-term care.

    To learn more about these projects and other winners, visit the SSHRC Storytellers Gallery.

    Researcher receives national award for cancer care innovation

    Post-doctoral researcher Irsa Wiginton has launched a simple blood test that can track breast cancer progression.

    Dr. Isra Wiginton

    A post-doctoral researcher at Queen’s University Cancer Research Institute has been recognized nationally for her groundbreaking work to monitor breast cancer using a simple, routine blood test.

    Irsa Wiginton has launched a liquid biopsy specifically for metastatic breast cancer, and the test is now undergoing its first clinical trials. For this innovation, Dr. Wiginton was presented the Mitacs Global Impact Entrepreneur Award on May 18 at a ceremony in Waterloo.

    The blood test, developed by mDetect Inc, a company she co-founded, monitors specific epigenetic markers in tumour DNA that are shed into a patient’s bloodstream and uses next-generation sequencing to quantify changes in tumour volume. One tube of blood, drawn every one or two weeks, can accurately measure if a tumour is shrinking or continuing to grow, indicating whether the current treatment therapy is working.

    “Right now, the only way to see whether patients are responding to treatment or not is through imaging tests (CT scans) which are done every couple of months,” Dr. Wiginton says. “Unfortunately, people with metastatic breast cancer don’t have a good prognosis. On average, they only have two years or less to live, so there’s no time to waste when it comes to determining their most effective course of treatment.”

    The blood test builds on the work by Queen’s researcher and mDetect Inc president and founder, Christopher Mueller (Queen’s Cancer Research Institute). It works for all subtypes of breast cancer and all forms of therapy, including hormone therapy and chemotherapy. Rather than waiting months for an imaging test, oncologists will know how patients are progressing within four to five days of their bloodwork and can change the treatment if necessary. The fast turnaround also means patients who are experiencing debilitating side effects from an ineffective treatment won’t suffer longer than necessary.

    “In the late stages of a patient’s cancer journey, oncologists often struggle with what treatment to pick and know that most patients will not respond to a given therapy, making it difficult to select subsequent treatment options,” Dr. Wiginton explains. “We’re giving them a tool that allows them to make an informed decision that ultimately leads to a better outcome and a higher quality of life for patients.”

    The detection method launched its first observational clinical study in April and is currently in the process of recruiting 150 metastatic breast cancer patients to participate through Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Ottawa General Hospital. Based on the outcome of the trial, the next step will be Health Canada and FDA approval, with the goal to be in the market within three years.

    “A blood test is a very easy way to monitor cancer,” says Dr. Wiginton, adding that future plans include using the liquid biopsy to detect cancer relapse as well. “It integrates seamlessly into the patient’s current standard of care – just one extra tube with their current blood work – and they get the benefit of knowing whether or not their treatment is working sooner, before it’s too late.”

    Dr. Wiginton is one of five winners of the Mitacs Entrepreneur Award who are being recognized for their efforts to turn their research into an innovative business that impacts the lives of Canadians. Mitacs is an innovation organization that helps companies solve business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions. Dr. Wiginton was also presented with $5,000 from the organization.

    For more information on the award, visit the Mitacs website.

    Working together to advance health innovation

    Three Queen’s teams have secured more than $5 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

    [Photo collage of Drs. Karen Yeates, James Reynolds, Lucie Levesque]
    Drs. Karen Yeates (Medicine), James Reynolds (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), and Lucie Lévesque (Kinesiology and Health Studies).

    The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) have announced their latest round of Team Grants. Intended to support interdisciplinary and collaborative research that optimizes health outcomes during transitions in care, team grants are funded around specific healthcare issues facing Canadians. As part of this announcement, three projects led by Queen's researchers have received $5.71 million to advance their innovative health research.

    “Finding effective solutions for complex health challenges requires multiple perspectives,” says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research).“We will benefit from the expertise of academic partners, governments, and Indigenous communities, who will help our research teams tackle health issues to improve outcomes within Canada and globally.”

    Learn more about the funded projects:

    Karen Yeates (Medicine) has been awarded $2.5 million from the CIHR and Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD) call for research into Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Prevention. The funding over five years will support her team’s STOP NCDs project focused on the development of health resources within remote Tanzanian communities. The team of Canadian and Tanzanian researchers along with policy makers and decisions makers from Tanzania’s Ministry of Health will evaluate and adapt HIV treatment strategies, extending them to treat cardiovascular diseases through the identification of individuals displaying risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

    The program aims to provide low-cost health insurance to those with cardiovascular risk factors and connect patients to interventions through text messaging and voice recordings. Regional nurses will be provided with cost-effective digital training, allowing them to identify cardiovascular risk factors and track patient progress. Nurses will also be provided with further training to allow them to prescribe medications and treat patients through risk factor management. This collaborative effort with Tanzanian public health officials will support the use of the most cost-effective and sustainable strategies to impact health outcomes.

    James Reynolds (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences) and collaborators are receiving $1.25 million over five years to fund the Infant and Early Mental Health (IEMH) Care Pathways Project. Supported by CIHR’s call to develop Mental Health in the Early Years Implementation Science, his team will evaluate the effectiveness of IEMH Care Pathways model in Canadian communities in the prevention and treatment of early childhood mental health disorders. The program will incorporate decades of previous research regarding early mental health and its importance in long-term wellbeing.

    This research effort will also assess the IEMH Core Component Framework, a tool used by community organizations to determine the strength of their own IEMH programs and prioritize areas of improvement. The critical analysis will be used to create a more effective and systematic framework for Canadian communities to follow when developing their own IEMH pathways. As a result, this research will enable a better understanding of the necessary responses to support children displaying risks of poor mental health outcomes.

    Lucie Lévesque’s (Kinesiology and Health Studies) team has been awarded close to $2 million over the next five years from CIHR’s Diabetes Prevention and Treatment in Indigenous Communities: Resilience and Wellness Team Grant titled Mobilizing Resilience through Community-to-Community (C2C) Exchange. Her team will use a community-engaged approach grounded in a Haudenosaunee Two Row Wampum perspective to study their community-to-community mentorship model of type 2 diabetes (T2D) prevention. 

    A partnership between six Indigenous communities throughout Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, several Indigenous partner organizations including the Kahnawà:ke Schools Diabetes Prevention Program, and researchers from three universities will collaborate to enhance community mobilization for T2D prevention and existing community resilience. Communities will interact through community exchanges, video storytelling, social media, and gatherings to share knowledge and wise practices. The research seeks to understand how community resilience can impact the success of the C2C model, as well as how the C2C model promotes community mobilization for T2D. Information gathered through various qualitative and quantitative methods will be used to develop sustainable T2D prevention with Indigenous communities across Canada.

    For more information about the CIHR Team Grants, visit the website.

    Queen’s places 3rd worldwide in 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings

    University secures its best performance to date with third consecutive top-10 finish.

    [Illustrative aerial drone photo Queen's University campus]

    For the third straight year, Queen’s has ranked among the top 10 in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings – earning third place worldwide and first place in North America out of over 1,700 universities. Queen’s is the only Canadian university to achieve three top-10 placements since the rankings began in 2019.

    The THE Impact Rankings are a global measurement for assessing universities’ performance in advancing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were established by UN member nations in 2015 to guide global action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure shared peace and prosperity for all people by 2030.  

    "It is an honour to be recognized for our institution’s ongoing contributions to advancing the SDGs. These goals are reflective of the university’s mission and our desire to be recognized as a global institution," says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. "The Impact Rankings have played an instrumental role in bringing together our community by creating a focus on the numerous ways Queen’s is engaged in solving the world’s most pressing challenges. Our performance in the rankings tells us that we are on the right track, and our efforts are having an impact."

    The 2023 rankings reviewed institutions from 117 countries, including 26 Canadian universities, and saw an overall increase of 11 per cent in worldwide participation over last year.

    "It’s really impressive what Queen’s University is doing to meet the goals and is a testament to how seriously it takes those critically important goals and how the whole sector is united in pursuit of a sustainable future for us all," says Phil Baty, Chief Global Affairs Officer with Times Higher Education. "The rankings are vital for millions of prospective students who are increasingly demanding to see evidence that the universities they consider for their education are committed to sustainability and to helping them to become sustainably minded citizens."

    Our performance

    The Impact Rankings evaluate universities’ activities across four important areas – research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship – using hundreds of quantitative and qualitative data points.

    Once again Queen’s submitted evidence for all 17 SDGs, and scored outstanding marks, in particular for advancing SDGs 2, 11, and 16. The university placed first in the world for its contributions to SDG 2: Zero Hunger; second in the world for SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions; and seventh for SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

    "Our performance in this year’s rankings confirms that Queen’s is realizing its aspirations to be a university that effects real, positive change at the local, national, and global level," says Principal Deane. "Our community is working together to improve our world and to help shape a better future for all of us and the planet."

    Queen’s submitted more than 400 pieces of evidence this year, highlighting institutional operations, policies, research, and strategy, and involving collaborative work by dozens of units across the university. Some examples of the evidence provided and evaluated this year include:

    • SDG 2 – Swipe it Forward Queen’s, an initiative to help address food insecurity on campus and provide short-term, immediate support to students in need. All students on meal plans have the option to donate up to five meals per semester to a student in need.
    • SDG 2 – The new Queen’s PEACH Market, a ‘pay what you can’ model where untouched food is packaged and made available to members of the university community.
    • SDG 16 – The John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy in the Department of Economics informs policymaking in Canada and abroad by focusing on policy-relevant research in economics and related fields.
    • SDG 16 – Queen’s Model Parliament (QMP) is the oldest and largest model parliament in Canada. The student-led event sees about 300 students take over Canada’s House of Commons where they experience the legislative process by forming political parties, running for office, drafting bills, and debating them on the floor.
    • SDG 11 – Queen’s is committed to recording and preserving aspects of cultural heritage such as local folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge. Our Office of Indigenous Initiatives – Art on Campus program has installed artwork across campus from many different Indigenous nations, as well as an outdoor plinth that identifies the Indigenous land the university sits on.
    • SDG 11 – The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, or "The Isabel" as it is fondly known, hosts public performances, bringing local, national, and internationally renowned artists and performers of all genres to the local community, including musicians and performing artists.
    • SDG 11 – The Sustainable Transportation Sub-Working Group provides recommendations for the implementation of alternative transportation such as public transit options, parking pass options, and active transportation with a focus on benefits for the environment, human health, and the economy.
    • SDG 15 – The Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) is one of the premier scientific field stations in Canada. For almost 70 years, researchers and students have gathered at QUBS to conduct leading-edge research and participate in courses spanning ecology, evolution, conservation, geography, and environmental science.
    • SDG 15 – Sustainability and biodiversity initiatives are core to the mandate of Queen’s Bader College (UK). The campus acts as a living laboratory, where students collect samples and perform experiments on the rich variety of ecosystems and land forms that are present.

    Learn more about Queen’s University’s performance in the 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings and contributions to the SDGs.

    Arts activities can provoke empathy and inspire youth action on UN global goals

    For young people seeking to engage with the world’s most critical challenges, the UN Sustainable Development Goals can serve as an entry point. The arts open up possibilities to take action.

    Dandelions in front of Botterell Hall
    ‘The Sad and Cheerful Story of a Certain Dandelion’ was a theatre project in Poland that saw students create a script encouraging audiences to protect the local species.

    Young people have a vital role to play in addressing global crises today. Around the world, arts education is helping youth understand the issues, connect with them emotionally and take action.

    The Conversation logoThe United Nations Sustainable Development Goals identify some of the most critical challenges confronting humanity. These include taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (Goal 13), promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies (Goal 16), and conserving life on land (Goal 15).

    Together these goals indicate a path toward a healthy future for our communities and planet. My research investigates how arts education is advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Here are some examples.

    Climate action

    Visual, performing and narrative arts are moving beyond just raising awareness about climate change. Diego Galafassi, who researches the role of the arts in sustainability, argues the arts can foster the disposition and imagination required to address the climate crisis. Arts activities can provoke positive emotions such as hope, responsibility, care and solidarity that, in turn, inspire resilience and climate action.

    In an international survey of arts educators that I am undertaking, a respondent from Québec described a project with high school students. Building on a vibrant tradition of climate change artwork, the young artists created publicly displayed sculptures.

    First, students informed themselves about the various issues associated with the climate emergency (extreme weather, air pollution, melting ice, forest fires and so on). Next, each student chose an issue that was personally meaningful and created a sculpture to address it. Finally, the students identified a location to exhibit their work for maximum impact, taking into consideration the people most affected and those who were causing the problem.

    The students exercised the potential of art to leverage visual codes for communicating, engaging and provoking action.

    Eco-anxiety is a very real source of distress for young people today. As a key coping strategy, medical professionals recommend taking action to understand and address environmental concerns. As this example illustrates, the arts can serve as a venue for young people to actively engage with the issues.

    Just and peaceful societies

    The arts promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies through a variety of mechanisms. Arts activities can frame a relationship or issue in ways that strengthen empathy and open minds to new perspectives and possibilities for change.

    The arts can facilitate dialogue between opposing groups, rebuild empathy and trust in communities ravaged by conflict and promote tolerance and acceptance of ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity which find expression in varied arts genres.

    My research team interviewed a theatre and music teacher in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At a time of intense conflict, he formed a youth choir to promote peace. The choir addressed politicians through a program of song and dance entitled Blessed are the Princes of Peace. The choir performed at the seat of the National Assembly in Kinshasa and at peace-building events.

    The teacher told us collaborating for this cause developed a powerful sense of solidarity amongst the performers. They were drawn together by their mutual commitment. The experience enabled them to see the potential of artistic work for drawing and focusing attention on crucial societal issues.

    Life on land

    The arts can also contribute to biodiversity conservation. Artists tell stories of how biodiversity contributes to our quality of life and how human activities impact the loss of species. They envision possibilities for more harmonious human-nature interactions.

    In the survey of arts educators, a teacher at a school in Poland described an elaborate theatre project with primary students. The Sad and Cheerful Story of a Certain Dandelion featured a local plant species, Taraxacum Pieninicum, in danger of extinction. Students learned about the plant, created a script explaining threats to the species’ survival and encouraged audiences to take action to protect it.

    The show was performed with different casts across the country between 2010 and 2019. The teacher reported students learned theatrical skills and the importance of taking care of the natural environment. The project also gave the children the chance to powerfully experience how they can advocate through art.

    For young people seeking to engage with the world’s most critical challenges, the UN Sustainable Development Goals can serve as an entry point. The arts open up possibilities to take action.The Conversation


    Benjamin Bolden, Associate Professor; UNESCO Chair in Arts and Learning, Queen's University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

    Connected Minds project seeks to guide responsible tech innovation

    Queen’s computational neuroscientist discusses major, new research into the human-technology relationship and its potential benefits and risks.

    Gunnar Blohm
    Gunnar Blohm, a professor and researcher at the Centre for Neuroscience Studies, is leading the Queen’s portion of the Connected Minds project. (Queen's University)

    The Government of Canada announced new funding recently in support of a major, new multidisciplinary research initiative being led by York University and supported by Queen’s. The seven-year project – called Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society – received over $105 million from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) to assess the potential risks and benefits of technology for humanity. Queen’s is set to receive $22.8 million of the federal funds.

    Leading the Queen’s portion of the project is Connected Minds’ Vice-Director, Gunnar Blohm, a computational neuroscientist with the university’s Centre for Neuroscience Studies. He’s set to contribute administrative, teaching, and research expertise to the venture, which seeks to explore the ever-deepening relationship between humans and disruptive technologies.

    “In my field of study, we create mathematical models, use artificial intelligence, and design computer simulations to gain insights into the mechanics of brain function and motor control,” says Dr. Blohm. “Within this project, I’m particularly excited to look at the emerging behaviours of networks, whether these are networks of neurons within the human brain, networks of people, or networks between people and technological devices. Insights we gain here could help us understand how to improve technology for the benefit of society while limiting its potential for harm.”

    To illustrate one way Connected Minds could inform more thoughtful technological development, Dr. Blohm points to Canada’s signing of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Recommendation on Responsible Innovation in Neurotechnology.

    “While Canada is a signatory of this agreement, we currently have no guidelines to instruct how we would achieve its goals,” he says. “The Queen’s Connected Minds team will work toward establishing such guidelines, as they will be crucial in ensuring technological development is done in service of a diverse and equitable global society. It makes good economic sense as well, given that socially responsible technologies are more and more commercially attractive.”

    Building the project from the ground up

    In addition to his research responsibilities, Dr. Blohm is set to coordinate and administer Queen’s-based activities – which span the governance, outreach, and commercialization aspects of the project.

    “Queen’s will be fully integrated into Connected Minds at all levels, and our participating faculty researchers complement York’s team with expertise in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, robotics, and neurotechnology, particularly that with a health focus,” he says. “As part of phase one, we’ve created co-leadership roles at all levels of the project, convened a joint York-Queen’s Indigenous advisory circle, and now we are working to establish the administrative structure, which includes striking committees, drafting terms of reference, and recruiting new faculty and staff.”

    In addition to the CFREF investment the project will engage more than 50 community partners and research collaborators, that will see institutional and multi-sector contributions that bring the overall investment in the project to $318.4 million.

    Gunnar Blohm speaks with François-Philippe Champagne, Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, following the CFREF announcement. (Supplied Photo) 

    Multidisciplinary collaboration and learning

    Once underway, Dr. Blohm sees the multidisciplinary nature of the project as pivotal.

    “No breakthrough today is achieved by single people. It’s always teams – always fields of research working together,” he says. “Connected Minds will be a tremendous way for investigators and students to take research to the next level.”

    CFREF funding has allowed Queen’s to commit to hiring nine tenure-track faculty positions and support for 50 graduate trainees and 27 postdoctoral fellows.

    “There will be a range of opportunities for the wider Queen’s community to get involved," says Dr. Blohm. “These include trainee funding, large group grants, commercialization funds, and educational initiatives. It’s truly an exciting time for Queen’s, for York, and for Canada.”

    As a passionate educator, he sees Connected Minds changing the way we innovate, teach, and live, and is determined that these changes help not only Canadians, but everyone around the world.

    “One of my goals is to democratize access to knowledge and education,” says Dr. Blohm, who co-created Neuromatch Academy – a worldwide training program that provides equitable access to computational neuroscience training to students regardless of geography, nationality, socioeconomic status, or other factors. “Connected Minds has partnered with Neuromatch on elements of this project, which I believe will accelerate our initiatives to expand access to learning.”

    Basic income could help create a more just and sustainable food system

    A guaranteed basic income is a promising tool for contributing to sustainability and justice across agriculture and fishing sectors.

    A farmer at the Roots Community Food Centre urban farm in northwestern Ontario harvests Gete-Okosomin squash in summer 2021. (C. Levkoe), Author provided
    A farmer at the Roots Community Food Centre urban farm in northwestern Ontario harvests Gete-Okosomin squash in summer 2021. (C. Levkoe), Author provided

    Canada’s food system is experiencing ongoing stresses from supply chain disruptions, price inflation and extreme weather events. Canadians are feeling the effects of these stresses: in 2021, nearly 16 per cent of provincial households experienced some degree of food insecurity.

    The Conversation logoFederal programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the recent grocery store rebate point to the impact direct government income interventions can have on ensuring equity in times of emergency, including access to food.

    Some have discussed the new grocery store rebate, which is to be delivered through the GST/HST tax credit system, as closely aligned with proposals for a basic income guarantee. But a basic income guarantee would involve regular payments, not just a one-time rebate.

    A basic income guarantee could play a key role in reducing individual and household food insecurity among society’s most vulnerable and ensure everyone can meet their basic needs with dignity.

    What the research says

    There is general support among basic income advocates in Canada for implementing income-tested basic income, which would involve delivering cash transfers to individuals whose incomes fall below a certain threshold.

    As sustainable food systems experts, we suggest that a basic income guarantee could not only be an important tool for addressing economic access to food, but also in supporting sustainability across the food system.

    We draw on our research with Coalition Canada, a network of basic income advocacy groups. Our research brought interdisciplinary teams of scholars and practitioners together to develop a series of case studies examining basic income through the lens of different sectors. These sectors include the arts, finance, health, municipalities and the criminal justice system.

    Our work focused on the agriculture and fisheries sectors and involved members of the National Farmers Union, Union Paysanne, EcoTrust Canada and the Native Fishing Alliance.

    Overall, our research suggests that a basic income guarantee could have a significant impact on the economic uncertainties faced by farmers and fishing communities in Canada. It could also contribute to a more just sustainable transition in the food system.

    Reducing economic uncertainty

    One potential impact of a basic income guarantee would be reducing economic uncertainty for the most vulnerable agriculture and fisheries workers.

    People employed in food and fish processing and as farm labourers are especially vulnerable to seasonal unemployment, low wages, uneven employee benefits and unsafe working conditions, including high rates of occupational injury and illness.

    A basic income guarantee could offer individuals more financial security and control over their employment choices, and thus address the racialized, classed and gendered disparities prominent in food systems labour.

    Supporting new fishers and farmers

    A second potential impact of a basic income guarantee could be supporting new entrants in agriculture and fisheries. Across Canada, the commercial fishing and farming workforces are aging.

    Supporting new farmers and fishers, especially those using more socially and ecologically sustainable practices, is an essential part of building a more resilient food system.

    New entrants face substantial barriers related to high entry costs, such as access to land and equipment or purchasing a boat and fishing license, combined with uncertain and fluctuating prices for their goods.

    While a basic income guarantee alone can’t address these challenges, it could provide greater economic stability for new farmers and fishers when they invest in infrastructure and training.

    Preparing for future stressors

    A basic income guarantee could also be a step towards building resilience against ongoing stressors, like the climate crisis and extreme weather events, along with preparing for future emergencies.

    The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that those with more stable incomes and flexible work arrangements are better able to adapt to unexpected shocks. For example, during the pandemic, boat-to-fork seafood businesses better weathered seafood chain disruptions because of their adaptable supply chain configurations and proximity to consumers.

    At present, small-scale farmers and fishers tend to receive the least support, because most subsidies go to larger industrial enterprises. However, these small-scale producers play a crucial role in supplying food for regional and local markets, which can serve as important buffers during times of crisis and reduce the stress of long-distance supply chains.

    Establishing a basic income guarantee would be a proactive step in supporting equitable livelihoods for small-scale farmers and fishers.

    Next steps for the food system

    Although a basic income guarantee has the potential to bring about many positive impacts, it shouldn’t be a substitute for existing government-funded agricultural and fisheries programs such as grants, public research, and training and skills development programs.

    A basic income guarantee also shouldn’t replace contributory programs, like the Employment Insurance fishing benefits. A basic income guarantee would offer support to fishers whose earnings are too low to qualify for employment insurance, or who are unable to go out on the water.

    Further research and policy efforts will be crucial for gaining a fuller understanding of how a basic income guarantee might intersect with other financial supports like insurance, loans and climate funding.

    Additional research will also be crucial for understanding how a basic income guarantee could support migrant workers brought in through the Temporary Foreign Worker program. Migrant workers are an essential part of fisheries processing and meat and horticulture production.

    There is also a need to think systematically and holistically about the role of basic income across the food system. The only way to accomplish this is with further input from farming and fishing communities and Indigenous communities in collaboration with anti-poverty, food sovereignty and food justice organizations.

    We believe a basic income guarantee is a promising tool for contributing to sustainability and justice across agriculture and fishing sectors, while encouraging the development of cross-sectoral networks, research and policy agendas.

    The authors would like to acknowledge the author teams of Coalition Canada’s Case for Basic Income Series for their contributions to this article.The Conversation


    Kristen Lowitt, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies, Queen's University and Charles Z. Levkoe, Canada Research Chair in Equitable and Sustainable Food Systems, Lakehead University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

    Science Rendezvous Kingston returns

    Queen’s researchers and community partners will showcase their science and outreach activities at the family-oriented event on May 13.

    [Photo of a student learning about static electricity]

    Each year in mid-May, Queen’s researchers and students take over the Leon’s Centre and The Tragically Hip Way in Downtown Kingston for a full day of science outreach activities featuring topics in biology, chemistry, geology, psychology, engineering, health, and many others. For over a decade, thousands of children, youth and their families have interacted with the displays and queried the researchers to learn about their work.

    This year, Science Rendezvous returns to Kingston on May 13. The festival, which is free of charge, will be the biggest one yet, with over 400 volunteers spread across 50 booths featuring research discoveries and interactive activities.

    "We are proud to see so many of our researchers, students and community partners invested in sharing knowledge with young people and their families," says Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research). "Events like Science Rendezvous help us translate the impact of Queen’s research and inspire the next generation of scientists."

    The theme of this year’s event is CREATE, showcasing how discoveries are made and new knowledge is built in different research settings, from labs to cities, from underground to outer space, from forests to hospitals.

    Highlights of the day include Queen's CardioPulmonary Unit (QCPU) showcasing a mini CT-scanner which will allow visitors to view real-time scans of QCPU’s mascot, Dr. Squeak. Queen’s Ingenuity Labs will introduce audiences to their robot dogs, Boston Dynamics Spot and Unitree Go 1, who allow engineers to safely and effectively navigate challenging terrain.

    New to Science Rendezvous this year is Kingston Fire and Rescue, who will demonstrate hydraulics and water supply with a fire hydrant and truck, and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, in partnership with Queen’s Art Conservation Program, who will introduce the tools and techniques used by museum professionals to study and preserve artwork and heritage objects.

    Also, for the first time, Science Rendezvous Kingston will feature a Sensory Friendly Science Zone designed for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, social and emotional mental health needs, and other sensory-related or physical disabilities.

    [Photo of a student looking through a telescope]

    "Our goal is to be increasingly inclusive, ensuring everyone gets the opportunity to experience science and fun," says Queen’s Professor Emerita Lynda Colgan, founder and coordinator of Science Rendezvous Kingston. "We want to show children that scientists come in all colours, genders, and ages, and that anyone can be a scientist if they want to."

    Dr. Colgan highlights how important it is to provide a fully free event in a post-pandemic world where the costs of taking a whole family to a science museum are out of reach for so many people.

    Science Rendezvous Kingston is part of the Canada-wide, not-for-profit initiative Science Rendezvous, the largest one-day science festival in the country, happening in over 30 cities in 10 provinces and two territories. The event is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). On March 8, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, on behalf of Kingston City Council, proclaimed May 13, 2023 to be "Science Rendezvous Kingston Day" in the city.

    Highlights of Science Rendezvous Kingston 2023

    • Research Casting International (RCI) is mounting a cast skeleton of Saurophaganax, a large carnivorous Allosaur that lived in North America during the late Jurassic period (about 151 million years ago)
    • A giant, interactive floor map brought by the Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition will allow visitors to experience the ocean and waterways with augmented reality
    • A Chemistry Magic Show will be presented by Queen’s Department of Chemistry on the main stage at 10:30 am and 1:45 pm
    • Award-winning Canadian authors will give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how authors create STEM books out of cutting-edge science
    • Queen’s Plant Sciences Research Group will share knowledge about flowers, vegetables, grains, and oilseeds

    Visit the website for a full list of booths and for more information on the event, or follow Science Rendezvous Kingston on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).


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